As is usual at this time of year, February was a very good month in terms of weather. A few days with rain and light wind helped cool things down and were nothing to complain about - instead being rather refreshing especially on the hot days. The average maximum temperature was between 32° C and 35° C, while the minimum average was between 25° C and 27° C.
Although we are near the end of the official ‘turtle season’ and past the peak for both nesting and hatchlings, we had a few exciting sightings during February. Two of these were of large leatherback turtles – a spectacular ocean behemoth. Adult loggerhead turtles, usually the more common of the two nesting species, were not seen at all this month.
Perhaps the most exciting sightings were of turtle hatchlings though. Towards the end of the month, leatherback hatchlings were seen emerging from their nests and making their way down to the ocean. A couple of days later, about 60 leatherback and 100 loggerhead hatchlings were found - really thrilling our guests. The following day, we found only one leatherback hatchling, although we did see tracks of other hatchlings.
The coastal forest and grassland harbours quite a few secretive mammal species, some of which are restricted to this kind of habitat type. Vervet monkey and thick-tailed bushbabies were seen on most days, as were the diminutive and handsome red duiker, while outings to Lake Sibaya and other freshwater sources usually produced hippo sightings. Tracks and signs of some more secretive species such as bushpig and genet were also seen this month.
A very large forest cobra which was around 1.5 metres long was seen around the kitchen area, but it lived up to its name and quickly slithered off into the undergrowth of the forest once we had seen it.
The dawn chorus at Rocktail is unbelievable! When you wake up in the morning all you hear are numerous birds calling. Livingstone turaco, yellow-rumped tinkerbird, sombre greenbul and yellow-bellied greenbul are the most common and dominant calls in the forest. Guided forest walks have also been very fruitful on the birding front, but patience is required as the forest species stick to the dense forest canopy and can be difficult to spot.
One of the exciting sightings this month was that of a rosy-throated longclaw (formerly known as pink-throated longclaw) in the grasslands near Lake Sibaya. All three South African longclaw species can be seen here! Saddle-billed stork, ruddy turnstone, curlew sandpiper and purple heron were among the more than 120 species also sighted this month.